Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Interview: Night of THE TROGGS [1978]

Text by Todd Abramson / FFanzeen fanzine, 1978
Introduction © Robert Barry Francos / FFanzeen, 2015
Images from the Internet

This interview was originally printed in FFanzeen, issue #3, dated Winter / Spring 1978-79. It was written by Todd Abramson, who published the Young, Fast and Scientific fanzine. Todd was pretty young when he wrote this piece, and I’m going to guess that his tastes are a bit wider, though I haven’t talked to him since the early ‘80s. He also went on to book some clubs, and become part owner / booker of the late and missed Maxwell’s, in Hoboken, N.J. He now books Jersey City’s White Eagle Hall, and is also a radio DJ at WFMU, the coolest radio station in, well, anywhere.

When The Troggs played Max’s Kansas City in 1978, as Todd describes below, it was an amazing show. The Fast were the opening act, and they were both in top form. While the band had many hits, “Wild Thing” is probably with what is most identified, and at one time, there was hardly a band that did not start off by learning that song. But Todd does a great job explaining their history, so I’ll leave it to him. The Troggs lead singer, Reg Presley, died in February, 2013, at age 71.

This interview is listed as “Continued next issue,” but for some reason I no longer remember, it was not. – RBF, 2015

Due to the enormous amount of the great music made in the 1960s, both here and abroad, a tremendous number of fab gear ravers did not get the recognition / riches they deserved. The Troggs fared better than most in this respect, making great music and coming up with some legendary world-wide smashes (you know the ones) at the same time.

What separates The Troggs from other great ‘60s bands is pretty clear: most of the great American punk bands of the ‘60s ended up dissolving for various reasons (the major one being disregard by their fans who turned into Sgt. Pepper’s zombies or something). Their last recorded work usually doubles as their worst (Elevators, Sonics, etc.). Even the immortal Trashmen ended up in the disposal bin.

On the other hand, the great U.K. ‘60s groups for the most part continued on in one form or another. None of them, however, stayed true to their roots, and while some of their later recorded work is quite good, none of it comes close to their original fire; and a lot of it is trash (don’t pick it up). The worst offenders in this group are pretty obvious – The Stooges, Beatles, The Who, Kinks, Pretty Things, and Small Faces, via the Faces and Humble Pie.

The Troggs stand apart as never having sacrificed any of their original vitality. If you saw them on Bowie’s Midnight Special (in ’73 or so [November 16, 1973 – RBF, 2015]), you know what I’m talking about. “Strange Movies,” a 45 released in 1972, is the equal of any of their previous work and the two LPs from ’75 and ’76 (The Troggs and The Trogg Tapes, respectively) are much better than almost anything else released at the time, especially the former, which included the great “Summertime,” an original in the classic Troggs tradition (i.e., it’s full of sex).

In June of 1978, the Troggs came back to America for some gigs, included some at Max’s Kansas City. Recordings were made for a “Live at Max’s LP, which may or may not come out [it was released in 1981 – RBF, 2015]. They were still better than 95% of the bands playing Max’s and their set included “Strange Movies,” “Wild Thing,” “I Can’t Control Myself,” “Feels Like a Woman,” and a fantastic “Louie, Louie,” which undoubtedly proved The Troggs were still up there among the best.

This interview was done between the first and second sets, their second night in New York. For anyone interested in The Troggs (which should be everybody with a copy of this mag), Sire has a great Vintage Years sampler, a two-record set with all their hits and many rare cuts, which can be purchased for $4 or so.

Go, man, go and start boppin’ and shakin’! After all – The Troggs make everything groovy!!!

FFanzeen: Were you guys into Chuck Berry, et al., before The Stones came around?
Reg Presley (vocals): We got all the old R&B records from Slim Harpo and those guys, and we were doin’ them, but The Stones took off about a year, two years before we did. Shame, we might’ve beat ‘em to it. Shame really [laughter]. First come, first served.

FFanzeen: What do you think of the modern day Stones and Kinks?
Reg: I haven’t actually seen them in a long time, so I can’t voice any opinion, but I’m beginning to like The Stones’ new record, though I haven’t heard it much here [referring to Some Girls – TA, 1978]. They’ll probably go on forever.

FFanzeen: Do you know why The Troggs are so popular in South Africa?
Reg: Because we’ve had hits there that were banned in England. A long time ago when The Beatles said they were bigger than God, y’know, had a bigger following than Jesus Christ, which at the time they may have been right [laughter], but at the time, the South Africans took offense of that and they just banned all Beatle records. At that time, we were pretty strong in there, and they took over. When we released albums, they took numbers from our albums, and one of our numbers that we thought was a pile of shit, called “Little Red Donkey,” went Number One in South Africa for seventeen weeks. They actually had to change the chart system because it kept on going and nobody else got a turn.

FFanzeen: What was the first song The Troggs played together?
Reg: The first was a number called “Lost Girl.”

FFanzeen: Was the Bowie Midnight Special with your performance ever telecast outside the U.S. (great versions of “Wild Thing,” “I Can’t Control Myself “and “Strange Movies”)?
Reg: No, I didn’t see the finished show. Bowie asked us to do the show and he was all day doin’ his five numbers and he left us an hour at the end to do three numbers. We had to do these three numbers in an hour; God, it was a nightmare, y’know.

FFanzeen: Do you like any of the bands considered to be “New Wave”?
Reg: Ya know, they don’t get played too much on English radio. BBC again. So I buy records I haven’t heard. Now my kids are starting to buy them. Still, they’re learning my kids how to swear properly [laughter].

FFanzeen: Maybe your kids’ records’ll be banned too, someday. Was Bo Diddley a big influence?
Reg: Well, anybody that was there before ’62; all the old R&B had a big impression. All the acts: The Kinks, The Stones, even The Beatles I think, but not so much, and I know they had a big effect on me. The first time I was introduced to R&B, that was it, I knew it was the music.

FFanzeen: Can you guys get airplay on the BBC now?
Reg: We could, but we’d have to make such a pretty, pretty number for them; we wouldn’t want to do it anyhow, and every time we do something that’s raw and meaty and has a bit of lyrical meaning of today [? – TA, 1978], ya know, they ban it.

FFanzeen: Was “Love is All Around” written ‘cause that’s the way you felt at the time?
Reg: Well, the San Francisco love power, y’know, flower power and everything had come. It was a feeling at the time; I mean everybody all through time had gone through these feelings and it hit us just the same. It just came out. In fact, watching a religious program. Not intentionally, but on a Sunday afternoon in England, it just came to me. I wrote that in about ten minutes. It’s unbelievable. All the very big hits I’ve written, very quick, and the ones that took three months to write… nowhere.

FFanzeen: Whaddya think of the Vintage Years compilation? Were you pleased with the tracks they put on it?
Reg: Um, Yeah, I think it was a good overall picture; the thing I like even better than that came out on DJM with all the numbers on the first LP.

FFanzeen: Contrasts?
Reg: That had all the heavies on one side and the light stuff on the other side.

FFanzeen: I can never decide which is better (The Troggs rockers or ballads). Whichever sort of mood you’re in, I guess.
Reg: It all depends what climate you’re in, too.




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